CIVICUS

MonitorbetaTracking civic space

Argentina

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Last updated on 16.07.2018 at 13:57

Overview

Despite limitations in the exercise of some civic space freedoms, which are particularly apparent at the local level, Argentine civil society is robust and highly visible and has played a positive role in recent legal reforms. The media is highly polarised, and stigmatising statements and criticism by public officials impede the healthy deliberation of public issues.

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Protests in Argentina in support of legal abortion

Protests in Argentina in support of legal abortion

Several protests took place in Argentina for several issues ranging from labour rights to women's reproductive rights.

Peaceful Assembly

Several protests took place in Argentina in recent weeks, in the context of legislation discussed in the House of Representatives which sought to decriminalise the voluntary interruption of a pregnancy during the first 14 weeks. For months, thousands of people took to the streets with green scarves, the colour of the campaign for legal, safe and free abortion. On 13th June 2018, the day of the final vote, protesters from both sides gathered in their thousands outside Congress in Buenos Aires waiting for the results. After almost 22 hours of debate, Congress finally approved the legislation, "in a historic victory for the country’s growing women’s movement." Following this decision, the Senate will debate the law's final approval on 8th August 2018.

The mobilisation saw the participation of diverse sectors of civil society including social movements, feminist collectives, political parties, high school students, families, Catholic groups and trade unions. In one example, several high school student groups held occupations of their institutions in support of the bill.

In a separate development, on 22nd May 2018 after a month-long struggle by Buenos Aires metro workers, security officers broke the strike by force.  According to the Asociación Gremial de Trabajadores del Subterráneo y Premetro, (Association of Subway Workers and Premetro, AGTSP) 16 workers were arrested. After what they claimed was "brutal repression" of their protest, the AGTSP called for an indefinite, city-wide transit strike until their fellow workers are released from jail. 

In the south of Argentina, civil society demonstrated against the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, where Chinese companies are investing around five billion dollars. As reported recently by the organisation Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), China "has mainly been financing hydroelectric, nuclear and hydrocarbon projects and only 4% of these investments are in renewable energies, which is precisely the sector where the country is lagging".

Environmental organisations are particularly critical of the dams on the Santa Cruz River, which begins in the Glaciares National Park and could affect the water level in Lake Argentino, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the country’s major tourist attractions. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects.

Expression

On 26th May 2018, Roque Azcurraire, a photographer with the community news website La Garganta Poderosa, was attacked and arbitrarily detained by a special unit of the federal police in Buenos Aires while the police unit was performing an operation. According to Reporters Without Borders, during the operation federal agents "tried to intimidate minors who were due to be questioned as witnesses in an investigation into a case of alleged torture in May 2016, in which six members of the federal police are implicated".

Reports indicate that the police broke into the journalist's home, physically attacked him, confiscated his equipment, and then took him and his brother-in-law to the police station. They were released two days later. 

In a separate incident, the Argentinian human rights' organisation Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, (Legal and Social Studies Centre, CELS) requested the Commission for the Protection of Competition to reject the merger of communication service providers Cablevisión and Telecom. CELS stated that the potential merger of the two corporations will deepen media concentration in the country and will put freedom of expression and access to information at risk in Argentina. 

As reported previously in the Monitor, when President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015 he immediately issued an emergency decree removing the cap on the number of media outlets one company can control. The new president also merged two regulatory bodies in a new entity housed in the Communications Ministry. Civil society criticised both measures as infringing on freedom of expression.

Association

The right to create and operate civil society organisations is guaranteed in Argentina. NGOs, trade unions, grassroots organisations and advocacy groups are legally recognised, are robust and play a major role in society.

The right to create and operate civil society organisations is guaranteed in Argentina. NGOs, trade unions, grassroots organisations and advocacy groups are legally recognised, are robust and play a major role in society. Although they were not designed to hinder free association, legal and tax frameworks are outdated and do, in practice, make it hard for CSOs to operate effectively. Reform efforts have so far reached a dead end. There are no legal restrictions in place regarding access to international or private funding, although political criticism of CSOs linked to “imperialistic” donors abounds.


Peaceful Assembly

Peaceful protests are frequent in Argentina, and people are able to demonstrate mostly without constraint; no prior authorisation requirements are in place. However, a newly issued protocol on police action during demonstrations would allow the security forces to use firearms or rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Peaceful protests are frequent in Argentina, and people are able to demonstrate mostly without constraint; no prior authorisation requirements are in place. However, a newly issued protocol on police action during demonstrations would allow the security forces to use firearms or rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Civil society organisations worry that this decision limits constitutional rights by placing “the unhindered movement of traffic above people’s physical integrity”, and they see a worrying trend towards the repression and criminalisation of social protest. At the local level, police repression has traditionally been more common, frequently targeting disadvantaged indigenous groups. Additionally, in August 2015 dozens of protesters were injured when local police used rubber bullets and batons against a largely peaceful demonstration voicing allegations of electoral fraud in the province of Tucumán.


Expression

Argentina is a relatively safe country for journalists, but there have been cases of harassment and political intimidation by provincial governments. In December 2013, Juan Pablo Suárez, a newspaper editor, was arrested and later accused of sedition and inciting collective violence under the highly criticized antiterrorism law.

Argentina is a relatively safe country for journalists, but there have been cases of harassment and political intimidation by provincial governments. In December 2013, Juan Pablo Suárez, a newspaper editor, was arrested and later accused of sedition and inciting collective violence under the highly criticized antiterrorism law. In another case, the home of radio journalist Sergio Hurtado was attacked by two armed men who warned him to stop reporting about drugs. Argentina lacks a federal access to information law. Reliable statistics have also been lacking for several years as a result of governmental manipulation.In 2009, Congress approved a law to regulate the broadcast media that includes provisions to increase plurality in the media. The legislation was heavily opposed by opposition political leaders and large media groups, arguing that the government in power would have too much influence over the media.